The Nistarim (The Concealed)

There are on earth, and always were, thirty-six righteous men whose mission is to justify the world before God. [...] The Lamed Wufniks are, without knowing it, the secret pillars of the universe. Were it not for them, God would annihilate the whole of mankind. Unawares, they are our saviors.
The Book of Imaginary Beings, Jorge Luis Borges

The Hebrew letter pair lamed-vav, ול, means "36" in Hebrew number notation. The Lamed Vavniks are thirty-six Jewish saints, whose existence gives God the excuse He needs to not annihiliate the human race for its wickedness. "Excuse" because every time a Lamed Vavnik dies, a new one is raised up to take their place.

There is a similar group of Muslim saints, the forty Abdals. Both Lamed Vavniks and Abdals resemble Lot in the book of Genesis. While Lot stayed in Sodom, God would not destroy it and the other Cities of the Plain. Once he left, boom.

Let us call people like the Abdals and the Lamed Vavniks "Pillars." Some, like Lot, are free-standing, as it were, but others come in sets, "Colonnades."

Free-standing pillars are a natural phenomenon (or a supernatural, the result of grace), but Colonnades are an invention. They are not God's invention; they are Michael's. Michael sees vastly further into the Divine nature than any human ever can, but though a light-year is a lot longer than a fathom, both fall equally short of plumbing infinity. Archangels don't understand God completely any more than we do.

Without entirely knowing why He works this way, Michael has figured out that God requires that an incarnate race maintain some minimal level of righteousness to avoid being wiped out and raises up these Pillars to ensure that level. The Flood shows what can happen when the margin gets too narrow.

As the human population grows, the minimum number of righteous individuals needs to grow in proportion. When God founded Israel and gave it to Michael for him to be Principality of, Michael located the Hebrew Pillars and founded the Lamed Vavniks.

By the time of Islam, the world population had grown enough that Michael could organize the Abdals among the Muslims. Given the way human population has grown exponentially, the number of Colonnades must have been growing similarly, even though they are nameless to legend (and, of course, unknown to themselves).

Why in groups, with carefully managed constant membership? Why not just increase the number of freestanding Pillars? Because, even though the Colonnades don't know they're Colonnades, they are still functioning societies, teams, that work as teams for Heaven, without realizing it.

From the viewpoint of an individual Pillar, he or she is just someone trying to be good, and of course they know a lot of people, and some of them are clearly trying very hard to be good, too. And some of them are fellow Pillars, though the first Pillar doesn't know it, of course. The Colonnade is a network of acquaintanceship, some links tight, most loose. It's very unlikely that any one Pillar knows all the others in the Colonnade.

But the Colonnade is there, and is an (unconscious) instrument for fostering righteousness in its part of the world. It rarely does anything supernatural. It sets examples. It helps in quite human ways. Most significantly, it is just numerous enough and connected enough to start a "fashion" (so to call it) in whatever virtue is needed at the time.

The constant membership – always 40 or always 36 or whatever it is for a given Colonnade – is because, when a Pillar dies, they pass on "a third part of their spirit," in the manner of Elijah to Elisha. These spirit portions, probably kau or a variation on them, get passed down from Pillar to Pillar through history, and every Pillar, unknowingly, has an equally unsuspecting heir out there.

Just because Pillars are ignorant of their own status doesn't mean they don't know about esoterica. They may or they may not. In fact, they are likelier to know about it than ordinary unSundered people, and also likelier to be less surprised by it.

Principalities love Colonnades, and will invest a lot of resources in protecting them. (Contrariwise, Tyrannies try hard to attack them.) Principalities love Colonnades, but they don't own them. To do the long-term and sometimes tightly-focused work that a Principality needs done, a group sometimes has to be given fairly clear direction – at least, more overt than the sheer providentia and spiritual "leadings" that direct Colonnades. Colonnades often do stuff that directly benefits a Principality, and the Principality is often allowed a part in steering a Colonnade, but that's it. And Colonnades work across cultural boundaries freely.

Colonnades "belong" to Michael and also to Metatron, in his capacity of Angel of Mysterious Ways (as in "The Lord moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform"). So most of the angelic influence on Colonnades comes from them. But once Michael forms them, they mostly work alone, or under direct guidance from God.

There is no infernal counterpoint to Pillars or Colonnades. Satan is not in a position to blast a race for having insufficient depravity. There are plenty of wicked social groups, besides Cabals, for Hell to manipulate, but they are not composed of infernal anti-Pillars.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010